Lies, Damn Lies & The Media (on the Farmers’ Protest)

19 Nov,2021

 

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Ranjona BanerjiOn the morning of Guru Nanak’s birthday, November 19, 2021, a sacred day for Sikhs, Prime Minister Narendra Modi repealed the three controversial farm laws that his government had pushed through Parliament last year. Since December 2020, India’s farmers have been protesting on the roads, sitting outside the national capital and at other sites, through the bitter cold, rain, heat, teargas, water cannons, bullets and whatever other horrors both nature and the Modi government have thrown at them.

 

They have been called Khalistanis because a majority of the protesting farmers are Sikh, they have been called anti-nationals, they have been accused of being rich (a massive crime unless your name is Ambani, Adani etc), of not being farmers at all.

 

 

 

These insults have been used not just by the Modi government at the Centre or by BJP functionaries or by the sections of uncivil society which toe the Modi line but also by large sections of India’s mainstream media. For days, these media houses either ignored the protests or parroted whatever the Modi press release system sent them.

 

Cartoon by Satish Acharya

India only found out about what was really happening thanks to a small group of independent journalists like Saahil Murli Menghani and Sandeep Singh, and the digital publications which currently keep journalism afloat in India. The farmers themselves were forced to come out with newsletters like Trolley Times, to keep people informed, only to face persistent official harassment.

 

The mainstream media on the other hand conveniently pretended that farmers had barricaded entry points into the national capital and started calling protest sites “borders” as if farmers were not Indians exercising their constitutional right to march to Delhi to protest. It was only when the Centre admitted in court that the police had put up the barricades that the media was forced to report that.

 

The laws themselves – controversial on many points, badly planned and drafted, incompetent in thought and research – were also boldly defended by the Modi commentariat and by the media. We were told by anchors that farmers were idiots who could not understand the excellent thought and intent behind the laws. When farmers demonstrated that they understood the laws, the media told us that they could not be farmers if they were educated, spoke English and wore jeans and understood the laws.

 

For the past year, no one has vilified these farmers more than the media itself. As the protests wore on through this year’s second wave of Covid, those fools who still watch TV “news” were told that farmers were spreaders of the virus. When farmers were shot and killed by the police, the media was happy to pretend that the farmers had shot themselves only to blame the police.

 

There is no end to the lies which the mainstream media told its viewers and readers about the farmers.

 

It was only when the persistence of the farmers shamed some of them and when the Tikaits jumped in, that some sections of the media realised they could not continue to endlessly dance to Modi’s tune in the face of bigger resistance. Modi and his government continued to sternly declaim that these farm laws would never be repealed no matter what. As the rest of the media applauded Modi’s steadfast nature.

 

Remember the enormous anger of these false patriots when international stars like Rihanna and Greta Thunberg tweeted in favour of India’s farmers? How they abused and attacked them for showing solidarity with the world’s biggest public protest. It happened in February this year. Look it up.

 

Through all this, facing the brunt of official anger, of evading rampaging forces, of having their social media accounts attacked, independent journalists like Saahil and Sandeep did not give in. There were others too who joined them: PARI Network, Gaon Connection for instance. In the two screenshots attached, we see how Times Now responded to Rihanna and how another independent journalist was attacked for looking at how corporates benefit from Modi’s farm laws.

 

By tomorrow we’ll know how low the rest of the media has sunk. It is likely that Modi’s capitulation and electioneering will be presented as a “masterstroke” by his adoring media fans.

 

But remember this: the only journalists among them are those that remind you that it was the Modi government who came up with these laws. Attacked farmers relentlessly. And refused to give in until now. And in an emotionally manipulative manner, used Guru Purab to make the announcement.

 

You know what the rest are. Scum.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia every Tuesday and Friday. Her views here are personal.

 

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